There are a variety of tools available for marking and cutting fabric.
Air Soluble Pens
- Air soluble pens make marks that disappear slowly after application. The marks may last up to 24 hours, but in the author’s experience they tend to disappear moments before you need them. They may also be removed with cold water. Heat can set the marks permanently, so care should be exercised to remove the marks before pressing.
- A chalk wheel makes a line of powdered chalk on the fabric. This is usually washed or brushed away easily.
Marking Wheel and Carbon Paper
- In this method, you place the pattern piece on the fabric with a sheet of carbon paper in between and then trace over the lines of the pattern piece with a small wheel. This transfers the lines to the fabric. The lines are usually washed away easily with water, but problems do occur so make sure to test it on a scrap. This method is useful for transfering marks of internal lines (such as darts in the middle of a piece or positioning marks for embroidery or applique) to the fabric.
- Rotary cutters are really useful if you know how to use them. They’re really dangerous if you don’t. The circular blade is extremely sharp and you could injure yourself by merely dropping it on yourself. Always exercise great care when using a rotary cutter, and always close the blade guard every time you finish cutting a line. Never allow a child to play with a rotary cutter.To use rotary cutters, you need a rotary mat to protect the surface on which you are cutting from being cut by the blade. It also protects the blade from being nicked by the surface. Larger mats are easier to work with, but note that large rotary mats can be relatively expensive – a 36×24 mat costs about $50 for example.
On the positive side, a rotary cutter can quickly and easily cut multiple layers of fabric, allowing you to (if desired) cut the same piece out of several fabrics at once to make several of the same garment. By placing a pattern piece on the fabric, securing it in place with weights, and cutting around it with the rotary cutters, you can cut pieces much more quickly than by marking the piece onto the fabric (or pinning it in place) and cutting with scissors.
Rotary cutters greatly facilitate the cutting of pieces for quilting. Smaller rotary mats may be acceptable for quilting purposes, which can save you some money.
- Tailor’s chalk comes in a chalk-like or a crayon-like (waxy) form. Both will wash easily out of most fabrics, but problems do occur and you should test it on a scrap if you’re not sure. The chalk-like form seems to wash out best.For best results, sharpen the edge of the tailor’s chalk cake often. This lets you place a sharp, clear line on the fabric. Avoid brushing against the line while you work with the fabric, as this blurs it or may cause it to disappear.
You can buy an inexpensive plastic holder for tailor’s chalk with a built-in sharpener – your authors find this useful.
Water Soluble Pencils
- Water soluble pencils leave a line similar to tailor’s chalk.
Water Soluble Pens
- Water soluble pens make a clearer line than air soluble pens, and it lasts until you remove it with cold water. Again, heat can set the marks permanently, so make sure to remove them before pressing.